Archive for March, 2011

We are building a deck because our trapeza is too small.

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

deck-design-looking-sw-ground-view

We have a good "problem". We built a small temple with an even smaller hall because that was all we could afford, and started worshipping in it June 2011. We have grown enough to make it impossible to fit everybody in our tiny trapeza (church hall).

We have decided to build a covered deck outside the hall, since adding to the building is way out of our means right now. This will more than double our usable dining space. It is important to have more dining space, since a very important part of our community life is that we always eat a meal (not just donuts and coffee!) together after liturgy.

We plan to add fans, heaters, misters and plastic sheeting, like you see in some restaurants, so we can use the deck year round. 

We have a donation to build the deck, but will need to raise funds for the absolutely necessary roof, tables, etc. The deck will be about 7 or 8 thousand, and a shingled roof will be about 9 thousand (we are exploring a canvas roof to reduce costs). We will also need to get fans, tables, etc.

Would you help us? See our Building Fund page to make a donation online or.

Donate to the Building Fund using PayPal.
You may also send funds to: St Nicholas Orthodox Church
memo "Building Fund"
P.O. Box 37, McKinney TX. 75070

OF COURSE, as before, we will consider all donators to be founding benefactors of our parish. As with all our founding benefactors, we promise to you that we will pray for your loved ones perpetually in the Divine Liturgy. We written into our by-laws that all benefactors should be prayed for in the liturgy by all rectors. and will commemorate their loved ones forever.

Deck design images

Deck design images at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/saint-nicholas/sets/72157626272047483/show/

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Before Thy Cross, we bow down and worship – Why do we prostrate?

Monday, March 28th, 2011

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Synopsis: Why do we prostrate before the Cross, even on Sunday? An explanation of the hymn before the cross: "Before Thy cross, we bow down in worship, O Master, and Thy holy resurrection, we glorify"

More homilies on the the 3rd Sunday of Great Lent  are HERE


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The Exaltation of the Precious Cross. What Shall A Man Give In Exchange For His Soul?

Monday, March 28th, 2011

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Synopsis: The Gospel for the Cross asks two great questions, which are *NOT* rhetorical. We must answer every momene the question "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Everything in life – whatever we desire, do, think or say – is an exchange.

More homilies on the the 3rd Sunday of Great Lent  are HERE

Mark 8:34-9:1 34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. 36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. 1 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.


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The Path of the Cross

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Russian version here.

Beloved brothers and sisters,

For the last two Sundays we have heard about the path of faith, and today the Lord Himself speaks about this path. For if we truly believe in Him, then we must necessarily follow Him, and He says to the people: “Whoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mk 8:34).

And thus, beloved, the path of faith is the path of the Cross. As we heard on the day of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, the righteous, trusting completely in God, voluntarily accepted every kind of want in order to follow His words.

This is a hard saying, brothers and sisters! Is this possible for us? Yes, it is possible, in Christ. For the Apostle Paul tells us that in Christ “we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but who was in all points tempted as [we are], [yet] without sin” (Heb 4:15).

Our Savior's entire life was a Cross. When he was born, Herod tried to kill Him. When he taught and healed thousands of people, the authorities insulted and persecuted Him. Throughout the 3 years of His ministry, he lived as a wanderer, teaching and preaching first in one place, then in another. He hungered, he thirsted, and he slept little. And all this not because of some sort of hatred of the body, but because as He himself said, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of… My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (Jn 4:32, 34) – that is, He didn't want to waste any time when He could be laboring for our salvation.

And at the end of His earthly life, He died a terrible death for us and for our salvation. We see His Cross in our midst. Let us therefore work together with Him. Let us deny ourselves, and take up our crosses, and follow Him. He Himself explains why this is necessary, saying, “For whoever will save his life, shall lose it; but whoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it” (Mk 8:35).

What do these paradoxical words mean? God our Creator gave us a great and priceless gift: His Image. Mankind is unique in God's creation. We can reason, pray, and love. We can become like our Creator Himself. And we have the gift of free will. We can use these great gifts to grow closer to God and become like Him. But we can also misuse them, for the satisfaction of our passions and lusts. That is what we must lose for the sake of Christ and the Gospel, so that we might save our souls.

Seeing then,” as the Apostle says, “that we have a great High Priest, that hath passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast [our] profession” (Heb 4:14), and let us follow Him on the path of the Cross, sending up to Him all glory, honor and worship, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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3rd Sunday of Lent – Veneration of the Precious Cross – Many links.

Friday, March 25th, 2011

2010-04-29-se-corner

Our "Old Rugged Cross"  before which we prayed for almost two years while  our temple was being built. Our sign will go in this location soon, and we will need to find another place for this holy relic of our parish history.

Homilies on the Third Sunday of Great Lent

 

 

 

 

Synaxarion for the Third Sunday of Great Lent

The Precious Cross
 

Questions about the Sunday of the Cross

Prayers for Sunday of the Holy Cross (3rd Sunday of Lent)

Gleanings from the Holy Fathers about the Cross

An Explanation of the Russian Orthodox Three-Bar Cross

From the Church of the Nativity, Erie PA
 

Why do we wear a cross?

St John Maximovitch on The Exaltation of the Precious Cross

Explanation of the Cross Which we Wear about the Shoulders on a Cord.

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Newsletter. Sunday of the Cross

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

 

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

Electronic Newsletter

March 14/27, 2011

3nd Sunday of Great Lent / Veneration of the Cross

Announcements
Prayer Requests
Schedule of Divine Services in the Coming week
Fasting in the Coming week

“Come, Adam and Eve, our first father and mother, who fell from the choir on high / through the envy of the murderer of man, when of old with bitter pleasure ye tasted from the tree in Paradise. See, the Tree of the Cross, revered by all, draws near! Run with haste and embrace it joyfully, and cry to it with faith: O precious Cross, thou art our succor; partaking of thy fruit, we have gained incorruption; we are restored once more to Eden, and we have received great mercy.”

- From the service for the Sunday of the Precious Cross


 

Announcements

This coming Sunday, and throughout the coming week, we will venerate the Precious and Life-Giving Cross of our Lord. The Cross will be brought out for veneration at the end of the Vigil service on Saturday night, and many of the hymns and readings this weekend will focus on the meaning of the Cross for us as Christians: both the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and the meaning of the Cross in our own lives as followers of Christ.

It would be good for as many of us as possible to be present at the end of the Vigil service on Saturday, and to prepare to receive Holy Communion on Sunday.
 


Please look at our calendar of services for the remainder of Lent, and make your plans now to attend as many services as you can, for the good of your soul. In particular, you should plan if at all possible to attend the services in the 5th week of Lent (April 4-8) – including the Feast of the Annunciation — and during the week of our Lord's Passion (April 18-24).
 


Our new facility brings with it many new maintenance and upkeep tasks. Matushka Marina and Reader David Hawthorne need volunteers to help get all the work done.If you can give a few hours of our time to help care for God's house, please contact Matushka Marina, Reader David or Deacon Nicholas and we'll tell you how you can help.

We have updated our list of things our parish needs. If you or somebody you know wish to supply one of these items, please contact us.
 


Prayer Requests

For the Health and Salvation.

  • Kateryna (Kayla) Bayda.
  • Alexander (Yuliya Guzman's father)
  • David and Elizabeth Ash.
  • Priests Jean and Grégoire and all the faithful and suffering of Haiti.
  • The suffering people of East Japan.

For a more complete listing, please see our parish prayer list. Anyone can make requests.
 


Schedule of Divine Services in the Coming week

Saturday 3/26. Commemoration of the Departed.   

  • 4PM Confession
  • 5PM  Vigil

Sunday 3/27

Monday 3/28

  • 7:30PM Great Compline or Moleben

Wednesday 3/30

  • 6:00PM Lenten Hours
  • 7:00PM Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

Friday 4/1

  • 7PM Small Compline with the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos
  • 8PM Pannykhida

Saturday 4/2. Commemoration of the Departed.   

  • 4PM Confession
  • 5PM  Vigil

Sunday 4/3

  • 10AM  Divine Liturgy
  • 12:45PM Church School
  • 6PM at St. John the Baptist in Euless. Pan-Orthodox Vespers

 
Our ongoing calendar of services is posted here, including entries for the remainder of Great Lent:

Our "Redeeming the Time" blog usually has at least several posts a week – http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime.
 


Fasting in the Coming week

Throughout Great Lent, we abstain from all animal products, wine and oil on weekdays. Wine and Oil are allowed on weekends. Fish is allowed on Palm Sunday and on the Feast of the Annunciation.
 

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Isaiah 6:9 The heart of this people has become gross…

Monday, March 21st, 2011

 

And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go to this people? And I said, behold, I am [here], send me. And he said, Go, and say to this people, Ye shall hear indeed, but ye shall not understand; and ye shall see indeed, but ye shall not perceive. For the heart of this people has become gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. (Isaiah 6: 8-10).

 

Brothers and sisters, do you hear the Lord's anguish in this text?

 

Whom shall I send, and who will go to this people?” The people are in need, somebody must be sent. The prophet responds, “behold, I am [here], send me.” And what does the Lord command him to say? Terrible words!

 

God sees the future as the present, and knows what will happen. He says, “Ye shall hear indeed, but ye shall not understand; and ye shall see indeed, but ye shall not perceive. For the heart of this people has become gross, and their ears are dull of hearing.” This is a terrible prophecy, brothers and sisters! The people will be blind to the truth! They will not understand what is best for them! They – or rather, we – will seek diligently after our own destruction!

 

And who, shall we ask, causes this? Does God make our hearts gross, our ears dull of hearing? No – he gives the answer in the next phrase: “their eyes have they closed.” We have done it to ourselves, brothers and sisters! We have closed our own eyes!

 

And why? “Lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.”

 

There are two amazing truths here. First, we have closed our eyes because we don't want to see, or to hear, or to understand the Truth! We want to be blind, because that way we can remain in our own self-satisfied, prideful and lazy state, the broad path that seems easy but which binds us with chains even now…

 

And second: we see the role of the Lord. He doesn't blind us, but if we allow Him to, He will heal us. And He desires this more than we can imagine.

 

All we need do is let go of our own ideas about the way things should be. Hasn't He given us enough reasons to trust Him. He is all-powerful, the Creator of the world. He is all-good and loving, sacrificing Himself on the Cross for the sake of the very men who put Him to death. He is all-knowing, and sees the needs of each and every one of us. And if we allow Him to, if we pray to Him and follow His commandments instead of our own reasoning, He will completely renew us and set us on the path of salvation.

 

May it be so.

 

Dn. Nicholas Park

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Personalizing the prodigal son. Adam’s nature was made godlike. Commentary on 2 Matins hymns, Second Sunday of Great Lent.

Monday, March 21st, 2011

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Synopsis: In an ongoing series of commentary on the service texts between Vespers and Matins at the vigil, we look at the Parable of the prodigal son, which the church explores in a very personal way throughout all of Great Lent. So should we look at this parable in a very personal way, and especially the canon at matins gives us an example of how to do this, such as:

"I fed on dark and swinish thoughts when, like the Prodigal, I left Thee, O Savior, and went into a far country; but now I cry: I have sinned; save me, for fervently I run for refuge to Thy tender mercy". (Second Sunday of Great Lent, Matins, Ode 3)

We discuss what sin REALLY is – it is not just things we do or do not do, and it almost always is a product of our thoughts, attitudes, disposition. We also explore the beautiful, intricate and dogmatic theology in one of the theotokia of the matins canon:

"Adam's nature was made godlike, O Virgin, when without undergoing change God took flesh within thy womb; and we who were deceived of old by the hope of becoming gods, have been set free from the ancient condemnation" (Second Sunday of Great Lent, Theotokion, Matins, Ode 3)

More homilies on the Second Sunday of Great Lent are HERE


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Salvation defined:”If any man enter in he shall be saved and shall go in and out and find pasture” Saint Gregory Palamas and the healing of the paralytic borne of four.

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

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Synopsis: The reading for St Gregory Palamas today contains a beautiful "definition" of salvation:"If any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture" This is true freedom, where the will is able to always choose the right way. We explore how we can obtain this kind of freedom, which the world does not understand, using examples from both Gospels read today.

More homilies on the second Sunday of Great Lent are HERE

John 10:9-16 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.


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Saint Gregory Palamas and the healing of the paralytic borne of four. The answer to the question: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Second Sunday of Great Lent
Saint Gregory Palamas and the healing of the paralytic borne of four.
The answer to the question: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Mark 2:1-12 John 1:43-51

 

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
 

Today, brothers and sisters, is ANOTHER Sunday of Orthodoxy. Last week we had one which is proclaimed to be the “Sunday of Orthodoxy” or the “Triumph of Orthodoxy”, but today is also a Sunday of Orthodoxy, shall we say, a Synaxis of Orthodoxy.

 

For various feasts we have a Synaxis right afterwards. For instance, after the Baptism of Christ is the Synaxis of Saint John the Baptist. It means gathering, and it means the people that were involved in that feast are then celebrated. The Synaxis of the Theotokos, is after the Nativity of the Savior. I told you before that the Sunday of All Saints is like a Synaxis of Pascha because, because of Pascha, we can BECOME saints.

 

And this also is like a Synaxis of Orthodoxy, a gathering together of those that have realized what was promised last week.

There was a promise made. Did you hear it? It’s a very important promise. It’s one that you must remember again and again. Because if you’re anything like me, you get discouraged about things, either about the way things are in the world or about you.
Nathaniel says: “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” And Philip says: “Come and see.”

I tell you, the answer to that question is in every service, is in every gospel, and should be in every day that you live.

There are two things to that answer. One is that you MUST DO something, and the other is that you must EXPECT. Come and see if anything good can come out of Nazareth.

Now, we know that Nazareth is not just a place. It also signifies the human condition, the human heart. Can anything good come out of our hearts? Come and see.
 

And today we see another part to the answer. Really, there’s no scripture, and no particular sermon, and no particular prayer that can describe this answer because ALL of the things describe the answer.

 

Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Come and see,

by every day that you live,

by everything that you do,

by the Grace of God filling you and helping you in every way, sometimes in just tiny ways that you don’t even know, you will be able to see.

And today we see what can really happen to human nature. Saint Gregory Palamas taught it. It was not an innovative teaching. It is what we have always believed, and that is that God can be SEEN by man, and we can BE in the presence of God. We can SEE His energies. We can BE with Him. We can be JOINED to Him.

Now, actually not everybody that says they are Christian believes this. There was a controversy with Varlaam, who was a Latinizing monk. I believe he still at least considered himself to be Orthodox, but his doctrine was far from Orthodox because there’s a lot of complicated things; a lot of learned treatises that were written about this, very complicated things, to be honest with you.

 

Here is the upshot. Varlaam did not understand the Incarnation.

 

He did not understand the affect that the Incarnation can have upon man. That’s really what happened, and that’s the way a lot of people are that call themselves Christian. They do not understand what the Incarnation can do. Jesus Christ is God AND man, perfectly both, and therefore He made mankind, human nature, perfectly capable of being united to God. I don’t think most people understand that. And we don’t live like that. That was the whole controversy, really.

Now, there is all kinds of technical terms: Created grace and all kinds of stuff that’s really interesting. But the upshot is, we can be perfectly united to God, but we have to continue to answer this question: Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?
 

Varlaam didn’t believe it. He thought salvation was basically obeying rules and things like that, much like the Jews.
 

And most people don’t understand it, because it’s too fantastic to believe that our nature, with all the things in it, with all that stuff that goes around in our heart, all that darkness and all that anger and all that stirring up of passions that is in us, that can happen in the blink of an eye, even if we don’t want it to happen, that all of that can be perfected and we can be in the presence of God and not be ashamed.

Now, I think a lot of people that say they’re Christian believe intellectually that, yes, we can be with God in the next life and not be ashamed. But they don’t understand that it’s happening right now, at this moment, in each one of our lives. And it is happening if we answer this question: Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?

We must come and see, and we must have expectation. But then there are things that must be supplied, by us and by God, in order for us to have the full understanding.

 

Dogmatically, we must believe what is true: Christ is God; Christ is man. The Holy Spirit abides in us. We must understand the ramifications of the Resurrection, of the Ascension, of the sending of the Holy Spirit. We must have true belief.

Also, there are commands and many of them in Scripture, and we are to obey them. Of course, “Come and see” is really a command.

Today we have a command: Rise, take up thy bed and walk. And here is another aspect to our answer. The Lord will heal us, but then we have to GET UP, and we have to walk. That’s what is really the summation of, the importance of this miracle. The man was healed of his sins and of his physical infirmity, but it would mean nothing if he didn’t obey the Lord and GET UP AND WALK. His getting up and walking to his own home signifies obedience to all the commandments.

 
We were built, made by God, for perfection. But we cannot attain perfection by not obeying the commands which the perfect will do. So a big part of this answer — can anything good come out of your heart, can you become completely changed — is obey God. Do the things He tells you to do.

Next week we will have another command. It’s actually not couched as a command. It’s couched as: “If any man will.”, “If you want to.” But really, if we don’t do it, we won’t have perfection: “If any man will, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.”

So now we have another aspect of this answer to the question: Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Not only must we OBEY God, but we must obtain the wisdom to see that there are things that are worthwhile and things that are worthless. That’s what taking up your cross and denying yourself is: denying yourself the things that are worthless, the things that don’t matter, and the things that will kill you.

 

And “take up your cross,” that doesn’t mean suffer according to like if you have a disease or something. That means deny yourself as the Lord did, and struggle for perfection as He in His humanity did.

And also, a big part of the answer to this question is encouragement, consolation, the strengthening of the Lord. Baptism makes us capable to begin.
 

The paralytic was healed of his sins but also of his physical infirmity, because without the healing from his physical infirmity, he would have remained discouraged. He needed both healings. And the most important, of course, is to be healed from your sins, but he needed the healing from his infirmities so that he would have encouragement.

If you look through these Sundays of Great Lent, they’re all about this, answering the question: Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? I think most people don’t think so. My experience is, my personal experience and my experience as a confessor, is that it’s hard for us to believe that we can really get better, completely better (after all, we have that phrase: “I’m only human, that’s why I make mistakes”.)

Well, Jesus Christ was only human too, right? The human part of Him was only human. And what did He do with His humanity? He perfected it. And that is what we are to do with our humanity.

Of course we can’t do it on our own. We need help. We can see that from the story of the paralytic. He was borne of four. We need the help of the Church, our friends, those who love us because sometimes we’re just not strong enough.

But no matter what, whether receiving much help or not, it takes a whole lot of work. Look what they did to help this man, certainly with his consent. When the paralytic was carried around, it would certainly be painful. He wouldn’t want to go out for no reason. So certainly the paralytic had the desire to be healed. They climbed up on the roof, broke a hole in it and let him down. Imagine the spectacle. Imagine how much that hurt. Imagine how embarrassing it might be.

It takes effort to answer this question. And the paralytic’s illness is really, in microcosm, our whole life. Most of the healings and most of the parables are like this. They describe a short period of time, perhaps a few minutes, perhaps a few hours. But what they are describing is our life.

 

And our life is, on some levels, by some measures, a short period of time. To us it doesn’t always seem so short. Seems like a long time before things change in us. And so WE are that paralytic that is waiting for healing. And it takes time. It takes effort from ourselves, from others, prayer and fasting and belief and expectation that something good can happen.

I am absolutely convinced as a pastor that our biggest problem is we don’t believe enough in the Resurrection, what the Resurrection can do for us, how much we can be changed.

Next week at the end of the reading about the Cross, the Lord will say: “Some are here who will not see death until they see the Kingdom of God come with power.” That was a reference to what shortly would happen after He spoke these words, which is the Transfiguration of the Lord, and they would be on the mountain, and they would see the Lord as He is, and they would not die. They were terrified; they couldn’t understand it; that understanding would come later. But the fact that it could happen, is a prophecy for us that it WILL happen. But only if we continue to answer the question.
 

So Lent is really just a period of time that’s more of an intense effort to answer this question: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

 

Nathaniel believed it. The paralytic believed it. And we must believe it. Because there is really no other way to perfection but Jesus Christ. And there is no other way to follow Him except to do as He did, with His help and with our stumbling and getting back up. And it’s a hard road. That’s why so few people follow it.

That’s why it’s so fashionable, it’s always been fashionable, really, to redefine Christianity to something more palatable, to something more approachable, but then it’s not Christianity. Christianity is: We were made to be perfected; we were made for perfection. And even though we know ourselves very well to be imperfect, and our collective experience shows that there are things that we can’t change and they keep going wrong. No matter what our experience tells us, we can be perfected if we continue to answer this question.

So the healing of the paralytic is just another part of the answer to this question: Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Can you become completely changed? How are you going to believe it when you’re not changing a whole lot? A lot of the stuff is still not getting better. How are you going to believe it? Because that’s evidence right before

you that you’re not changing. So how are you? Really, there is no solution except to struggle and to try with God’s grace and to learn to be good. And as you learn to be good, you have confidence that you can become completely good. There’s no other solution. There’s no fast way. There’s no formula. It’s just: Believe God and follow Him just like Nathaniel did, and your confidence will happen. Slowly. Sometimes it will be higher; sometimes it will be lower. But if you’re continually struggling to follow God, then you will become good.

And remember: To the pure all things are pure, and blessed are the pure in heart because they shall see God. So as we become purified, we see God. Saint Gregory knew it, and we know it, but we only know it here in our heads. For it to be known in our heart, we have to go through the process of living and struggling, and then God will fill us, and we will see, and we will be with Him in Paradise, seeing Him as He is and not be ashamed or afraid.

Can anything good come out of Nazareth, brothers and sisters? Come and see. Amen.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.    

 

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This homily is at:

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